I though that Santa Claus already watched everything kids did and reported it back. I recall a Calvin and Hobbes strip devoted to the implications of Santa's sophisticated global surveillance operation.
When I first saw this topic, I thought it was going to be that had built a camera into the elf on the shelf. Which would, of course, be amazingly creepy.
I think people have a natural tendency to act better when watched, or when under the illusion of being watched. I've read a couple of studies where simply images of eyes improved behavior. So in general, I think the elf isn't a factor one way or the other.
It's still creepy, though.
If it's just a cute stuffed toy, it's struggling for share in a saturated market.
In many ways, the modern multimedia world is not particularly conducive to developing good parenting skills. Even in the best of times, it can be a challenge to train the next generation to become productive and effective adults. Witness the proliferation of shows such as Nanny 911 which detail parents who have reached their wit's end because perhaps when they started parenting, they did not appreciate the benefits of clear values, firmness, and consistency.
In that context, couldn't this be a pretty effective sales ploy to sell yet another stuffed toy to parents who can sometimes be desperate enough to try almost anything? And to sweeten the pot, we're extending their exposure. Any coverage is good coverage, right?
An elf's job is to watch and listen.
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Canadian professor wrote a paper criticizing Elf on the Shelf for socializing children to accept a surveillance state. I tend to agree. Just bizarre.
And, for Ethan, I give you an interview of Focault and the elf!